A beautifully-striped lawn shows that you have skill with equipment, and you’ve got the time — or money — to put into a beautiful yard. Until recently, this meant mowing your lawn in an attractive pattern. Actual lawn striping — using dedicated equipment to stripe your lawn — was the realm of professionals.
Nonetheless, striped lawns have always maintained a certain mystique. Think of the groomed fairways at the Masters or the striping on any professional sports field. In fact, modern lawn striping owes its existence to a professional sports field.
Fenway Park, in Boston, is famous for its beautifully-maintained outfield. In 2001, Fenway Park groundskeeper David Mellor published a book on how the job was done. It turned out to be so simple that anyone can do it at home.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know about lawn striping and lawn striping kits!
The basic principle behind lawn striping is simple. All plants have two sides to their leaves or blades. One side has a matte finish, and the other side is glossy. You can see this on any leaf you pick up on the ground, and the same applies to each blade of grass.
Both sides of the blade are more or less the same color, but the waxy side reflects more light than the matte side. When you bend the blades one way or another, stripes appear. This happens by accident, even if you’re just running a walking mower back and forth.
Striping is more effective on flexible grasses, which retain more water and tend to grow in colder climates. Similarly, the blades need to be long enough to bend. For most breeds, this will mean a minimum height of two inches. Lower than that, and the blades won’t have enough flex to show off your striping to full effect.
How complex you want the pattern to be depends on how ambitious you are. For most people, this means starting with a simple striped pattern. The trick is to achieve straight, parallel lines at a consistent width. You can do this by cutting a border around your yard to provide a space for turning.
If you want to get more advanced, you can mow in a grid pattern. To achieve this look, simply repeat the striping, but from a perpendicular direction. Similarly, you can create diagonal stripes by changing the axis of your mowing direction. This requires a keener eye and more patience, but it’s something anybody can do at home.
There’s a commonly-held myth that lawn striping is bad for your grass. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, by ensuring that different sides of the blades are exposed, the blades will be healthier and greener. Not only that, but striping helps to expose shorter blades that would be shaded by taller blades in an irregular pattern. This keeps all blades of grass well-exposed, so you get more consistent growth.
That said, there’s a grain of truth in those myths. Namely, if you’re always striping a patch of grass in the same direction, it will become unhealthy. Always mowing in the same direction can cause the grass to become matted. It also negates the advantage of exposing both sides of the grass since only one side of the grass will be exposed in any given spot.
The solution to this is to change up your pattern. Reverse it if possible, or even start in a different spot. Doing this will ensure that each blade of grass isn’t always bent in the same direction. Not only that but changing things up will make the mowing experience more pleasant.
A lawn striping kit is a simple weight or bar that drags behind your mower. A typical push mower will have a rubber flap behind it, and a riding mower won’t even have that. This means there’s a limit to how far the grass will bend. Attaching a striping kit to the back of your mower will cause the grass to bend further, making the striped effect more pronounced.
What is the best lawn striper? At the end of the day, the best lawn striping kit will depend on your mower. The main thing is that it’s the correct width. So, for example, a 22-inch push mower needs a small striping kit, while a 60-inch riding mower needs a significantly larger one. The price will vary according to size. For a small mower, you can pick up a striping kit for $10 or $20. For a larger one, you can easily exceed $100 or even $150.
As you may have gathered, a lawn striping kit doesn’t have to be professionally-made. It doesn’t even have to be complicated; it just has to be the right width for your mower. As long as it’s the right size and you can attach it with rope or chain, you’re ready to go. You can use just about any material you want. Fill a PVC pipe with sand and cap it off. Rig up some heavy-duty rubber mats or a stall mat to drag behind your riding mower. Pretty much any hefty object will do.
More important is using the right technique. This takes time and practice. Remember, a skilled landscaper can get beautiful results even from the worst tools. Conversely, even the best equipment won’t do much good if your mowing technique isn’t up to snuff.
Finally, regardless of whether you buy a kit or build your own, your grass health remains the number one most important factor in your lawn’s appearance. If your yard is covered in brown spots and clover patches, you’d be better off addressing those issues before you spend any money on striping. Once your lawn is green and lush, striping provides a beautiful finishing touch.